by Stephen Tall on October 13, 2011
I noted last month that there was a simple reason the Lib Dems’ recent conference was a surprisingly cheerful affair:
The Lib Dem membership has realised the power it now wields: a vote at conference can now shape government policy. No wonder there was such a sense of cheerfulness, no matter our current opinion poll ratings.
And there’s been very real, tangible evidence of that this week with the announcement of how the ‘pupil premium’ is going to be allocated to children from the most deprived households within England.
The ‘pupil premium’ has been very much driven by the Lib Dems. The idea of targeting extra resources to those who need it most was first championed by Nick Clegg and Richard Grayson in 2002, who wrote a pamphlet advocating the approach, borrowing practice already demonstrating success in mainland Europe. (Ironically, Richard has been one of the most vociferous Lib Dem opponents of the Coalition.)
Though the Tories also included reference to a ‘pupil premium’ in their manifesto, they did not commit any new money to it; they would simply have spread the existing pot a bit thinner. It is the Lib Dems in Coalition who have ensured that no pupil loses out, while those from the poorest households will gain.
The Department for Education has published all the figures online for anyone to access — whether you want to find out how much your local school will benefit, or whether you want to see a breakdown by local authority or constituency.
Here’s what it all means for Oxford’s two constituencies:
- 2,560 pupils in Oxford East (that’s almost one-quarter of all children at school here) will benefit from the ‘pupil premium’ to the tune of £1.25m this year;
- 1,151 pupils in Oxford West & Abingdon (that’s 10% of all children at school here) will benefit from the ‘pupil premium’ to the tune of £621k this year.
So a grand total of 3,703 children will receive additional funding totalling £1.87m.
These are children who qualify for free school meals, typically with a household income of less than £16,000 a year. The money can be used by schools as they wish to assist those children, for instance on catch-up classes for struggling pupils.
Back in the 1990s, the Lib Dems attracted a lot of attention for the policy of a ‘penny on income tax for education’. But the ‘pupil premium’ strikes me as a policy much more likely to make a real difference to the life chances of children at the time when it can make most difference. Let’s hope it achieves its aim.